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DAN KOE

ALEX MATHERS

TAYLIN SIMMONDS

Founder, KorteX
3.5M followers

medium.com top writer
120K followers

BRAND CONSULTANT
79K followers

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"If you want practical strategies to maximize your own well-being, then create a profitable internet business around your passions, interests and curiosities – Goldfield is your guy."

DAN KOE

i have a student who feels free and easy for a while but then falls back into a familiar mental trap.

the worst part? the only person who could be tripping him up is himself.

but this is common among mindfulness practitioners. i certainly had my fair share of this nasty “feedback loop”.

it’s as if our conditioning—the way we were trained to think and behave—has its own kind of gravity.

this student of mine is free from his old tendencies of anxiety and doubt for a while…

but then he falls right back into the black hole.

and when this happens, to him it seems as if he forgets how to practice mindfulness altogether.

nothing he does “works” to bring him relief.

he’s completely stuck…

or so he thinks.

and as if this weren’t bad enough, there’s another sinister ingredient in play—one i’ve written on before…

​the predicament of the 21st-century spiritual practitioner.​

…which is that there are so many different wisdom teachings and practices available that it’s hard to know which will get us out of our misery.

this particular student has managed to whittle his selection down to just two teachers—myself and one other.

this other teacher and i are good friends. we’ve spent a lot of time advising students together, in fact.

as we see it, we’re in perfect agreement.

but as this student sees it, there are differences in our teachings.

these perceived differences are due to another sinister trap from which none of us ever escape: language.

the trap of language

every wisdom teacher has their own way of attempting to express the inexpressible.

to this student who’s determined to find THE way to understand and practice—the ONE way that will finally lift him out of his misery—this presents a huge problem.

because as long as he looks for differences between teachings, he’ll find them.

i spend a lot of time encouraging this student to come back to simplicity; to the fundamentals.

Michael Jordan was always practising his standing shot.

Mohammed Ali was always practising his jab.

mindfulness students will do well to always practice accepting “what is” right now. this is opposite to engaging in in intellectual speculation about which specific method they should be doing.

so i got thinking: “what’s the simplest way i can express the fundamentals of mindfulness (or even “spiritual practice” as a whole) to this student?”

i came up with this...

the “spiritual practice” flowchart

right click and select "show image in new tab" to see fullscreen

it’s said the buddha addressed a large assembly of monks with an important statement:

“i teach only dissatisfaction and the end of dissatisfaction.”

the buddha spoke an ancient language called pali.

words in this language tend to have many valid translations in english.

we don’t tend to see or hear the word “dissatisfaction” much though. not even when we go deep into religious buddhist teachings.

the pali word the buddha used, “dukkha,” is more often translated to “suffering”.

but there’s a problem with that more common translation: the word “suffering” is too close to the word “pain”.

this is a problem because, relatively speaking, pain is unavoidable.

e.g. when you stub your toe it’s gonna hurt.

when you lose a beloved family member you’re going to have a natural grief response.

but whether you’re dissatisfied about these things is a choice.

dissatisfaction is an interpretive mental process which can either run or not run.

and this is fantastic news!

the flowchart explained

the easiest way to explain how this flowchart works is to walk you through it experientially.

in the first box you’re dissatisfied with something—anything.

pick a real example from your day, eg:

  • your computer crashed
  • you were stuck in traffic
  • your boss made an unreasonable demand
  • your kid did something awful at school

now you have a choice:

  1. accept it as it is
  2. wish it were different

if you picked number 1, congratulations: you’re good! in this case, unless and until you’re curious about the deeper nature of reality, you have no need for spiritual practice.

but if you’re like most people then in the moment you picked number 2.

it’s okay, you were trained to pick number 2 since before you were forming memories.

note that by the time these things occur (your computer crash, the traffic, your boss’s unreasonable demand) there’s nothing you can do to change them.

yet still you wish they were different.

you feel they should be different; that you’ve been wronged somehow; that you deserve for them to be different.

and so you move into the next box, where you continue to be dissatisfied.

most people spend their entire lives looping between this box and the previous.

wishing their circumstances were different → being dissatisfied → wishing their circumstances were different → still being dissatisfied.

this is the first feedback loop people get stuck in. and it’s miserable indeed.

of course good things happen to people too…

but it might surprise you to hear that sometimes those are dissatisfying as well!

because when something is good, you tend to want it to stay.

but it won’t.

not forever.

perhaps not for long at all.

so for those who haven’t explored genuine spiritual practice, the trap of dissatisfaction lurks everywhere.

now, if you’re wise you’ll have noticed this pattern. and it will have been your motivation for trying some kind of practice.

genuine spiritual practices are about at dissolving dissatisfaction by accepting the sensations of which it’s made.

so you wish your boss were different.

the next step on the flowchart, if you desire freedom, is to look directly at the cocktail of sensation that makes up your dissatisfaction… and accept ALL THAT as it is.

it really is just a bunch of sensations.

dissatisfaction (or suffering) is only a label you apply to those sensations.

so if you can’t let your boss be as they are…

can you at least let your feelings about your boss be as they are?

if you’re ever going to accept your boss, you’re going to have to accept your feelings about them. and these feelings won’t dissolve while you wrestle with them.

now, if you can accept your feelings here—deeply—then they dissolve and voila! you’re good!

but many practitioners get stuck in the 2nd feedback loop here.

the student of mine i mentioned at the beginning of this letter struggles here most of all.

  1. he sees his dissatisfaction…
  2. he accepts the sensations that make up that dissatisfaction…
  3. he experiences a degree of relief…
  4. he gets dissatisfied again!

the loop that appears here is commonly known as “spiritual practice”.

and if you're not okay it's the best place for you.

“but wait dan, am i supposed to let people take advantage of me?”

no, i don’t recommend letting people take advantage of you. it’s not good for them.

“accepting everything as it is” doesn’t mean you let that unreasonable boss have you working till 10pm every night.

actually, accepting your boss for the unreasonable individual they may be enables you to handle them better.

  1. in comes the unreasonable demand…
  2. you were expecting it anyway so you don’t get reactive.
  3. now you have space to act from wisdom and discernment instead of emotion.

to paraphrase the great Ram Dass:

treat people like trees.

when you go to the forest you don’t wish one tree was less crooked and another had greener leaves.

but when it comes to people,

you think they should be different.

thing is, people are just expressions of nature—the same as trees are.

you don’t have to do business with a “liar tree” or a “cheater tree”, but don’t put them out of your heart.

how to get out of the feedback loops

MISERY

if you’re trapped in one of the loops i’ve illustrated you’re likely aware of it by now.

but how do you get free?

to get out of misery, simply start practising mindfulness.

here’s the basic practice i recommend:

if you don't yet have a practice, print this graphic and put it somewhere you'll see it every day.

or set it as your wallpaper.

or both.

mindfulness is largely about observing your thoughts, feelings and sensations.

when you observe them, you stop being anxious and instead notice the appearance of anxiety.

this doesn’t sound like much but believe me—it’s everything.

don’t worry if you don’t notice much difference when you begin this practice.

experiment, explore, and ask me questions on ​twitter​ or ​instagram​.

“SPIRITUAL PRACTICE”

it’s time to explain why i put this phrase “spiritual practice” in quotes.

i do so because it’s nonsense, really.

it’s just a made-up label like any other.

and by giving this label to what is essentially just realizing natural wellbeing, we limit it.

see, a lot of people don’t consider themselves “spiritual”, but everything i’ve written in this letter is still about them.

it’s about everyone.

but how can that be the case?

surely we each get to opt in or out?

nope.

everyone is somewhere on that flowchart (whether they know it or not).

but categorizing is convenient for communication, so we use the term “spiritual practice”.

this includes all methods concerned with breaking that feedback loop of dissatisfaction.

mindfulness is the simplest of these.

but of course there are formal meditation techniques in their varying complexity.

but if any of these are to work they must be done with the aim of accepting each moment of your life just as it is.

good news: it’s only when you interpret or judge things that you become dissatisfied.

so ultimately all you have to do to break the cycle of dissatisfaction in any moment is stop doing anything at all.

in other words, chill out, let go, quiet down.

if dissatisfaction arises again, accept.

if it arises again, accept.

if it arises again, accept.

but this seems difficult at first…

which is why the buddha is said to have given 84,000 elaborations on that simple teaching of dissatisfaction and the end of dissatisfaction.

he said the same thing in 84,000 different ways…

all to convince people to finally chill the fuck out.

so why do you need “spiritual practice”?

i know some things seem impossible to accept.

i remember that feeling.

i spent a lot of time telling my first teacher that what he was recommending was nonsense; that it couldn’t be done.

but really, i knew he was talking the most sense i’d ever heard.

so i kept going back.

and as i did, and as i continued my practice between our sessions, i accepted more and more.

things got easier.

there was less dissatisfaction...

and less…

and less.

when i brought my many other teachers into the mix, things got really good.

and this is absolutely possible for you my friend.

🔸if you’ve found that the good feelings you enjoy in meditation fade after you finish your session…

🔸if you’ve tried different meditation techniques but can’t tell if you’re doing them correctly…

🔸if you’ve felt lost in an infinite library of competing teachings and philosophies, each claiming to hold the ultimate truth…

🔸if you’ve tried to be disciplined in your meditation practice but can’t stay consistent…

🔸if you’ve hung out in spirituality communities but they’re more of a hindrance than a help…

🔸if you’ve had ups and downs in your meditation practice but can’t figure out what makes the difference…

🔸if you’ve wished there were a single path to follow that guaranteed your lasting wellbeing…

🔸if you’ve started to feel disillusioned with worldly life, but have yet to unlock the spiritual happiness that’s supposed to fill the void…

🔸if you’ve worried that true wellbeing might be impossible for you…

“spiritual practice” will turn all this around.

if you’re just getting started, i recommend checking out my ​85 free talks and guided meditations.​

but if you want to get serious then you'll benefit from my course, MINDFUL 24/7.

it'll teach you how to establish:

🔹unshakeable confidence in a new method for making wellbeing your default mode

🔹crystal-clear clarity on the common truth to which all wisdom teachings point

🔹freedom and relief from the drudgery of discipline

🔹unwavering trust in tourself to assess and refine your practice based on evidence

🔹rock-solid courage to overcome your life’s challenges

🔹genuine, lasting happiness, free from stress, anxiety, worry or guilt

🔹the certainty of consistent peak mental performance to apply to all areas of your life

this is the beautiful destination to which “spiritual practice” leads.

if you’d like to guarantee those same results for yourself, click here.

to hear from previous students, ​click here.​

and to learn more about the course structure, ​click here.​

got questions? dm me on ​X​ or ​instagram​.

win/win for the win,
dg 💙

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